Volunteer of the Month – Caroline!

At just 13 years old, Caroline has been volunteering with Music Makers for the past several months, and in April she inquired about volunteering with Teen Tastic. Without question, it was an obvious “yes”! We have one teen, whom Caroline already knows and loves, that comes to Teen Tastic and achieves her Best of All when accompanied by a volunteer. Mom would always accompany this participant, but we wanted to provide Mom the opportunity to sit back and watch her teen SHINE. Teen Tastic leads, Erin and Mary, had been trying to find the “perfect match” for a couple of months, but when Caroline offered to volunteer at Teen Tastic, we knew it was a match made in heaven. Caroline truly celebrates this participant and isn’t afraid to provide hand-under-hand instruction. When Caroline can take away her hands and promote this participant to engage independently, Caroline is quick to quietly let the people around her know – so everyone can watch and celebrate together! Caroline’s thoughtfulness, willingness to serve, and volunteer heart are beyond her age, and we are so grateful to witness such an incredible human continue to grow into the advocate she is called to be.

Tell us about yourself! What is your educational background, favorite sports teams, hobbies, favorite food, etc!

I just finished 8th grade at Incarnate Word Academy and will be attending St. Joseph Academy in the fall. My favorite subjects at school are Religion and Math, but Music and Theater are my favorite things in the world! I play piano and violin, and I sing. I love to perform and this year I was Cat in the Hat in my school’s production of Seussical Jr. I am a big fan of the Oklahoma Sooners softball team. My favorite foods are burgers and fries.

How did you find out about GiGi’s Playhouse?

I had heard about GiGi’s from a friend whose family volunteered here. Then I went to the Kindness Fair last year and met Erin, who told us more about GiGi’s and the different programs that are offered. I couldn’t wait to get involved, so as soon as the school year was over I started volunteer orientation.

Why did you start volunteering at GiGi’s Playhouse?

I wanted to learn more about Down syndrome and help other people.

What is your favorite memory at the Playhouse?

My favorite memory at GiGi’s was when I helped Nikki create a painting at TeenTastic. This was fun because I got to help her with painting, gluing, and cutting things out. We both really had fun and she gave it to her mom at the end of the night.

What part of the mission appeals to you the most and why?

I like the aspect of making regular things accessible to people with Down syndrome and making it so that they can do everything that we can do.

What do you love about volunteering at Teen Tastic and Music Makers?

What I love most about volunteering at TeenTastic and Music Makers is getting to work one on one with the participants – especially my friend Nikki! It’s amazing to see her having so much fun participating and to know that I am helping her.

Why do you enjoy volunteering at GiGi’s Playhouse?

I enjoy volunteering at GiGi’s Playhouse because it is a really accepting place where everyone is included.  I feel like I am making a difference just by helping people have fun!

What is one piece of advice you’d give to a new volunteer?

One piece of advice that I would give a new volunteer is to jump right in and not be afraid to make new friends with the families that are there for programs or with other volunteers. Everyone is very friendly at GiGi’s!

Caroline and her mom, Jen, volunteer together at Music Makers. See what Caroline’s mom has to say about the impact GiGi’s has on her daughter!

Every time Caroline volunteers at Music Makers and Teen Tastic, I’ve seen her become a bit more responsible, independent, and comfortable jumping in to help wherever she is needed. It is amazing to watch her jump in to help another individual cut paper or strum the ukelele– she does it without a second thought and just loves to help everyone have experiences that she remembers from when she was younger, like making cards for Valentine’s Day or singing together with friends. Volunteering at GiGi’s has shown her how important it is to participate in service activities so that everyone gets to have these great experiences. After we spend time at GiGi’s she’ll often talk about how much fun she had interacting with the kids, their families, and other volunteers and employees. She has made strong connections with a few of the participants at GiGi’s and can’t wait to see them each time we go. GiGi’s has really become home for us, too.

Caroline, we appreciate the joy, love, and energy you pour into every moment volunteering at the Playhouse. You are changing the way the world views our friends with Down syndrome, and you are a true inspiration to us all!

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